This Land is Your Land
I’ve been listening to Woody Guthrie lately, and while he has many great songs, my favorite has to be “This Land is Your Land.” What interesting about this song is how its been taught and sung in schools for years as simply a song of admiration and love for America and as a declaration of how free Americans our, however, the song is actually something much different.
It was written in 1940 as a response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” Woody was disappointed with the songs lack of realism and so he wrote “God Bless America for Me”, which eventually become “This Land is Your Land.”
Today, only the first few verses are sung, these are the verses that celebrate America’s beauty. However, there are two verses that are virtually forgotten today, both of which stem from Guthrie’s long standing Marxist and socialist view. The first is in regards to the land belonging to all, not just the land barons:
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.
The second is more direct and questions who the land really belongs to, particularly in the last line:
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?
Unfortunately, there is no recording that includes both of these verses. There is one that includes the private property verse, it can be found on the release “The Asch Recordings Vol.1 – This Land is Your Land.”
It’s a shame that the real many of the song has been lost on several generations of Americans. I also think that the true meaning of the song is very relevant today in the midst of the current economic crisis, which is truly a clash between the have and have not’s. Take a look around, people are losing everything, while a small segment of the population are actually benefiting. As a country, we need to ask ourselves, is this land for you and me?